Record of the day: John Lennon, "Plastic Ono Band"

Record of the day: John Lennon, “Plastic Ono Band”

John Lennon
Plastic Ono Band (Apple CD/Parlophone CDP7467702)

One of the most emotionally harrowing albums in the entire history of rock, “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” is a ruthless x-ray of the whirlwind that went through John Lennon's soul immediately after the breakup with the Beatles.
They were certainly not easy years for the ex-cockroach; prey to cocaine and heroin abuse, unhinged from the security that came from working in a group, continually involved in trials, complaints and other legal battles with his former friends, strongly influenced by the Primal Scream theories of the psychotherapist Artur Janov which pushed him to lay himself bare in front of the listeners in an almost embarrassing way, through liberating emotional manifestations based on screams whose aim was the removal of the traumas of the unconscious, Lennon threw his life to the public in a hard and stripped where every fold of one's self was revealed and brutally exposed.

The instrumentation is reduced to the bare bones, the recording quality is almost artisanal (the polished sound of Abbey Road is from the previous year but seems light years away), the songs are composed of very few extremely simple elements and throw the listener incandescent seal of the blackest desperation in the moment in which Lennon dissects every fear and rejects everything that had been up to that moment, ruining success, music, friendships, the loss of parents, isolation from the star system, the painful detoxification whose pain transpires from every fiber; the only thing in which Lennon seems to place trust is the relationship that binds him to Yoko Ono, a figure unjustly mistreated by fans who profoundly influenced him in his artistic choices.

Ringo Starr's drums (whose friendship was the only link that still tied Lennon to the past) beats elementary rhythms, just as Phil Spector's piano in “Love” is reduced to a few notes, yet the album is an authentic masterpiece of sincerity, cruel in its complete revelation and yet rich in poetry, capable of crossing a wide emotional spectrum, from the infinite desperation of “Mother” and “Well, Well, Well”, to the tenderness of “Love” and “Isolation” up to the emotional climax of “God”, after whose final invective only remains the chilling nursery rhyme of “My Mummy's Dead” sung in a robotic voice.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.